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Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

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Degree Program


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Master of Arts (M.A.)

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In the Anglophone world, the Nanjing Massacre is also known as “the Rape of Nanjing,” which represents gender-based violence directly and inspires fictional writers to depict the tragedy of women. Yan Geling’s novel The Flowers of Warand Zhang Yimou’s film adapted from that novel are examples. In this thesis, through a comparison of Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nankingand two versions of The Flowers of War, I examine how Yan and Zhang apply the historical materials to portray the interaction between women and calamity.

In The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang displays “rape” from a transnational perspective. First, patriarchy rapes women. The East Asian male-dominated society exposed women to extreme danger. Society taught women to be gentle and meek, but men surrendered and fled when the war did happen. Another meaning of “rape” is that the stronger nation abuses the weaker nation. During the war, stronger countries ignored the call for help from China and forgot the Nanjing Massacre afterward. By contrast, when adapting the Nanjing Massacre into fictional works, both Yan and Zhang interpret “rape” from a single point of view and manage to find out “hope” in the war.

In the novel The Flowers of War, Yan Geling details the problems with patriarchy without adequately illustrating the bigger global picture. She narrates how women use mature female organs to bring out (re)birth. Zhang Yimou, meanwhile, emphasizes the transnational context in his film. He expresses the idea that the Western religion is able to save the fallen Oriental civilization. In this thesis, I argue that in the novel The Flowers of War, Yan narrates how the inner strength of Chinese women’s bodies gets to solve the crisis of death; however, in the film version, Zhang seeks the external power – Western cultures – to cure the Chinese trauma. Nevertheless, both these two narrative strategies expose several problems: Yan represents the abjection of women, and Zhang shows the self-Orientalism tendency.


First Advisor

Enhua Zhang

Second Advisor

Richard T. Chu

Third Advisor

George Qiao

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.